The New Insadong
For majority of the people visiting Seoul for the first time, famous Insadong streets are always on the to-do list. Located in the historical heart of Seoul, in between Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung palaces, Insadong lies right where all the tourist hot spots meet. However, this artsy traditional tea house district has a new rival aiming for its must-visit spot title. Not far away from Insadong lies an area called Ikseon-dong, a rising star amongst the hip areas of Korea’s capital city.
Once a maze of historical Korean houses, dating all the way to the 1920’s, Ikseon-deong has gained a large number of fans, especially amongst the younger generation. It is filled with cute cafes, hipster jewelry stores, and luxurious restaurants. Here, the traditional and modern meets with bits of old-style wooden rooftops peeking from the top of Italian style pizza diners. After getting off of the subway at Jongno 3-ga station, all it takes is to follow the crowd into Inkseon-deong’s narrow pathways and enjoy the vibrant energy. Visitors afraid of long walks do not need to be wary – the entire area is only about 33 sqm large. The downside of Ikseon-deong’s walkability is the lack of space for the huge crowds it tends to gather there, especially during the weekends. Therefore, if you can, choose a weekday for a lovely tour around this beautiful neighborhood.
Below are one of the most interesting – or personal favorite – spots to check out in Ikseon-dong.
Step into this cozy flower filled café and be ready to take a trip back in time. As the name suggests, Uncle Videotown is no ordinary café. It is a mixture of a cafe serving delicious food drinks as well as a movie hall. Customers can enjoy their cake, or some savory movie snacks, like corn or French fries, while watching one – or more – of the many movies on the list. Privacy is also included as the cinema hall is divided into separate movie rooms for everyone to enjoy their movie time in peace. The interior itself is like a colorful explosion; once you walk in, you cannot unsee all the retro expired blues, yellows and red.
The price of the movie is included in the drink, making it mandatory for every visitor to order at least one. Nevertheless, the prices are reasonable – around 10,000 KRW/$10 for one glass of drink and a movie rental.
Which movie would you choose?
One of the “originals” from Ikseon-dong is without a doubt this comfortable retro style café. Sikmul was one of the first trendy cafes to draw in a considerable number of customers to the area. After photographer and art director, Louis Park, fell in love with the neighborhood, she opened Sikmul to deliver the best of both coffee and art culture to its visitors. Preserving multiple parts of the old Hanok, the café beautifully blends old architecture with the retro Korean furniture and open walls.
The menu is also equally pleasing. One has a hard time choosing between the fluffy coffee-cocktails and, for example, mulled wine. The finishing touch is offered by the carefully selected background music, which is occasionally switched with live performances.
The whole area surrounding the historical part of Seoul is definitely worth checking out but it is obvious why Ikseon-deong has particularly been rising in popularity as compared to other local areas. Aside from the cafes and restaurants, there are many other interesting places to visit – jewelry shops, ice cream stands, and rows of flowers. Each of these places has its own unique charm – a nice combination of modern and traditional.